10 Months in Prison for Fatal Abuse of Rare Sea Turtle

Man who caused death of green sea turtle given one of the harshest sentences ever meted out in Israel for animal abuse

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The body of the abused turtle
The body of the abused turtle.Credit: Israel Nature and Parks Authority

A man who was convicted of the fatal abuse of a rare sea turtle was sentenced Monday to 10 months in prison. It was among the harshest sentences ever meted out in Israel for animal abuse.

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On August 8, 2009, according to the indictment, Dmitry Kendler, 55, camped overnight at Sharon Beach National Park with a female partner and their dog. Kendler was woken up by the dog barking at a large sea turtle that had emerged from the water to lay its eggs on the beach. According to the charge sheet, Kendler took a sharp stick and plunged it into the turtle’s neck, shattering its spine and causing massive bleeding.

The following morning, Israel Parks and Nature Authority employees discovered the turtle, but its injuries were so severe they had to kill it. It was a rare green sea turtle, which is a protected species. According to the IPNA, it was one of only 10 such turtles recently spotted in the entire world.

“This is a serious case of abuse without any provocation, which must be treated with great severity,” Netanya Magistrate’s Court Judge Oz Nir wrote in his verdict.

The indictment was filed in August 2009, but the hearings were postponed due to the difficulty in finding Kendler. Only in July 2013 did he plead guilty as part of a plea bargain, but before the sentencing arguments were heard, the defendant fled and was not located again until September 2017, when proceedings against him resumed and the plea bargain was withdrawn. In addition to the prison sentence, he was given a suspended sentence and fined 12,000 shekels ($3,309), to be given to a nonprofit group that treats wild animals.

The attorney who handled the case throughout was Supt. Nurit Zaken Givat, head of the prosecution unit of the environmental protection section, a police unit operating under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Ministry. “Not everyone knows that the Israel Police has an environmental protection unit and if here we see an unprecedented ruling in terms of the severity of the sentence, we see a process and a change of approach,” she said.